An eclectic, three-decade public service career ended for Kerri Hartland with a surprise turn of events late last year.
The abrupt restructure of the federal bureaucracy announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in December brought to a close her time leading the Department of Employment, Skills, Family and Small Business.
She joined four other bureaucracy chiefs put out of jobs when Mr Morrison reduced 18 departments to 14 in a move he said would "bust bureaucratic congestion".
But Ms Hartland says she isn't looking back on the public service shake-up - the largest since the Hawke era.
She had reached the bureaucracy's most senior level via a winding career path that included roles in the Finance, Human Services, Immigration, Industry and Prime Minister's departments.
Before she was elevated to Employment Department secretary in 2017, she had a groundbreaking stint as ASIO's first female deputy director-general.
"I've changed jobs a lot of times during my career," she says.
"Every job has been very different so I'm never afraid of change."
She has returned this year to the private sector, where she first started her professional life as a journalist from Queensland before joining the public service.
Ms Hartland said it was liberating to think about what she wanted to do next after finishing at the public service.
"Lots of doors were suddenly opened up," she said.
She has spent the months since leaving the bureaucracy working on a Business Council of Australia project helping businesses recover from a summer of devastating bushfires.
Ms Hartland also started two weeks ago as a principal adviser in Canberra-based government advisory firm Proximity, where she plans to draw on her experience, profile and relationships to help the firm, particularly growing its capability in national security.
She says she's still getting a grasp of the commercial world but wants to prove public servants can make the transition into the private sector.
"Hopefully it's a bit of a role model to others in the public sector to say this is a move that you can make and hopefully be successful at that," Ms Hartland said.
"When you look at all the different places I've worked I know that people might step back and go 'wow, that's eclectic, how did that come about?'
"But the cornerstone has been really about big transformation work or change management in different organisations, so I'm looking forward to doing more of that."
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Ms Hartland exited the public service shortly before the coronavirus forced large-scale changes on the bureaucracy.
She finds herself still looking at issues through a public servant's eyes and staying engaged with the challenges facing government.
"You can't have been in the public service for 30 years and been at the highest levels of the public service and be giving that advice, and not be thinking through and looking at problems and working out what you would do in that situation," Ms Hartland says.
"You'll never be able to get that aspect of it out of me, the public service has been too much part of my life. And too much part of this town."
Ms Hartland says the pandemic has fast-tracked changes already happening with IT and online service delivery in the public service. It's also bringing on a fiscal challenge that will require major decisions about government priorities, rather than tinkering around the edges of public service budgets, she says.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure on budgets for the public sector and I think one of the challenges will be that it'll be easy to say things like 'cut travel budgets because look, we've been doing all of this work remotely and have more working from home, so hot desking, let's look at that'.
"They're all things that can be looked at, but in the end they're relatively small amounts of money in terms of the public service spend.
"It's going to be a challenge to not just play around the edges because there's really big ticket items there that will need to be addressed."
COVID-19 has raised expectations that changes will come to the public service, Ms Hartland said.
"From a leadership point of view, leaders just need to be honest about the fact that budgets are tight, that things won't necessarily be the same, that there will be challenges ahead," she said.
"I'd be really encouraging people to work with their organisations and to show courage about putting forward very - I know 'innovative' is a very well-used phrase - but to look at some bold moves about where there can be more joining up of services, or organisations, of programs.
"Sometimes the fiddling around the edges is the bit that's really wearing on staff, hacking away at relatively small budgets.
"I think it's going to require some courageous reprioritisation of work, which I don't pretend that that's easy, but if there's ever an ideal time to do it, it's now."
Ms Hartland re-entered the private sector this year as public servants began working from home in the tens of thousands to stop the coronavirus spreading through Commonwealth workplaces.
The former department chief says the experience has shown working from home can be productive and help balance work and family. She also warns that remote working has pitfalls.
"You might get lots of productivity gain from it but you're constantly then in the workplace, and you'll just do those extra few emails or have the laptop on your lap at night while you're multiskilling, so there's that aspect to it of never turning off," she said.
Human contact is better than video conferencing when forging relationships of trust with people, Ms Hartland says.
"After that, the remote piece becomes easier," she said.
Australia's increasingly complex national security environment will also require change to the way public servants work, she says.
The former ASIO official - one of few to have been publicly identified - remains involved in national security as a council member of the National Security College at the Australian National University.
Ms Hartland says the public service has to change its understanding of where national security fits in its work. Awareness of cyber security and vulnerabilities to foreign interference will be important, she says.
"Where the public service needs to grow in this area is to understand that everyone has a role, so I've always been a great advocate that you really need to understand the context in which you work in," she says.
"That doesn't mean that you need to know about every defence policy or that you need to know every piece of legislation that's going through the Parliament, but you need to have an overall awareness which also enriches your public service experience but also makes you a better public servant."